I’ve just had the extreme pleasure of visiting one of the world’s most coveted contemporary art shows for the second time, La Biennale di Venezia. 

Besides the splendour of Venice itself (which is ridiculously gorgeous and actually real, though my mind wouldn’t believe it), the Biennale is an amazing way to squeeze even more culture out of an already culture-soaked city.

But all this pleasure came at a cost — I definitely underestimated how taxing it would be physically, and after a string of injuries in our party I decided to write this list to make sure others survive it in better shape.

1. For The Love of Gold, Get REAL Shoes & Take the Water Bus

Man, we walked, and walked and walked. I wore through a pair of fairly thick flip flops, injured my back, and had blisters galore. It was extremely hot (mid-July, a.k.a. Sweat Season) so being able to walk to shade became fairly important. Arch support, breathable, cushioned for the solid stone streets and pre-worn in are all vital. Trust me, comfort is better than looks here! (No one can make a hobble look glamorous.)

The 'bus' in Venice is actually a series of well-ordered boats, very pleasant to just sit on and tour the Grand Canal. Take the line to the Arsenale or Giardini (Biennale venues) and on the way enjoy the sights. Just get on and off with vigour, seats go quickly in the summer!

2. Do Try The Lemon-Basil Gelato

Amazing. Seriously. We found it on the main walk beside the water on the way to the Biennale venues, right when we felt we were about to expire. IT IS AMAZING. Look for the little penguin out the front of the store, we’ve never been so happy to see a cartoon penguin in our lives. Basil in sorbet? YES.

3. Don’t Rely on Maps, GPS or Your Normally Awesome Memory

Venice is truly like living in the movie Labyrinth — we even found a red lipstick mark on some of the paving stones which convinced us we were in the goblin kingdom. I am usually brilliant at finding my way but the trick is that everything looks different depending on the time of day.

I found that following water was my ultimate saviour, as the maps don’t show the tiny streets you go along and it is so very easy to take a left instead of a right and end up on the other side of Venice. GPS doesn’t work in the narrow streets, and if you are walking everywhere like we were, you just need to know the general direction, have a half decent map that shows the small streets without their names, use the water as a guide, and keep an eye out for Bowie.

4. Immerse

Give time to not rush. It’s wonderful to immerse in the pieces and the vibe, especially in the Giardini garden) venue. We packed so much extra into our 3 days that we rushed through the last half of the Biennale in an hour, and while we adored it, it meant missing some important things. Take time. Breathe it in. It’s wonderful.

5. Take a Hand Fan

I have the most amazing hand fan I picked up in Spain many years ago, it is solid bamboo painted black. I call it the ninja fan, because I can whip it out anywhere and make myself more comfortable. Don’t be fooled and buy one of the pretty lace-style Venetian ones — they’re beautiful but not functional as the air goes right through them! There’s no aircon in some of the venues and at 36 celcius with thousands of people it can get a bit oppressive. Get a ninja fan. You’ll love it. (Neck sweat is not sexy. No, really.)

If you are heading to this year’s Biennale of the next one in two years I highly recommend all of the above! It is definitely an item I am happy to tick off my list again, it was just spectacular!

This piece is called "Support" from Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn, highlighting Climate Change (more here)

This piece is called "Support" from Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn, highlighting Climate Change (more here)

Enjoy the sights of the Grand Canal as you travel to the Biennale venues at the end of the line.

Enjoy the sights of the Grand Canal as you travel to the Biennale venues at the end of the line.

Don't be afraid to be assertive on the water bus, and get to the front or back for a seat and breeze!

Don't be afraid to be assertive on the water bus, and get to the front or back for a seat and breeze!